A charming mews running riot with plants and old former housing for horses and servants just around the corner from the Charles Dickens Museum.
This part of London was laid out as housing during the 1790s. R Horwood’s map of 1799 shows the mews as still fields, but with the northern entrance left open in the row of houses, indicating that the layout had already been decided upon.
By 1828, the area was largely completed, with the mews showing up fully built on the Greenwood map of that same year. The mews backed onto the grander houses that line Doughty Street.
The street, and mews, both owe their name to the Doughty-Tichborne family, who owned much of the land in Holborn at the time of its development.
The southern end of the mews turns into the very short Roger Street — that was named after Roger Charles Doughty-Tichborne. His disappearance in 1854, probably at sea, prompted a butchers son from Wapping, Arthur Orton, to claim, ten years later, that he was the returning heir to the Doughty-Tichbourne estate. His claim sparked one of the most famous lawsuits of the 1860s-70s.
He lost the case, and eventually died penniless, but the Tichborne family generously allowed a card bearing the name “Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne” to be placed on his coffin before its interment.
The mews remained homes for stables until the 20th century, when the motorcar rendered the horses redundant and changing economies of households rendered most of the servants redundant as well.
Since then, the mews has been mostly residential conversions retaining most of the character of the original.
It’s a very homely passageway, with lots of planting outside the old stables
The southern end of the mews has two very modern buildings, one side added in 1996 by the architect, Ash Sakula, who also has an office in the mews. The triangular plan of the building was constrained by a tributary of the River Fleet that flows under the mews. Opposite is another modern building, by Jamie Fobert from 2012 which replaced an old car reair workshop, probably the last vestige of the mews original function, as a home for horses and their staff.
Look up halfway along, and there’s a Manganese Nickel Brass plaque to Martin Andews, who was a long time supporter of the nearby Goodenough College, and left it to them in his will. Also a bit further along, look for the sundial on the wall.
One of the interesting non-residential occupants is the Egypt Exploration Society, which was founded by Amelia Edwards in 1882 to support archaeological fieldwork in Egypt.
If you fancy renting a 1-bed flat here, it’ll set you back over £2,000 a month, which is a far cry from when Booth’s poverty maps were made, when living in a mews was seen as offering poor to modest accommodation.
At the very northern end, the mews narrows sharply, and is today blocked from road traffic.
There’s an old sign here for the Duke of York pub, which is not in the mews, in Roger Street, inviting people to use the mews as a shortcut, which is a wise thing to do.